Shilabalikas of Belur

Shilabalika, a.k.a. ‘salabhanjika’, is a standard decorative element of Indian sculpture depicting in stone a young female under a stylized tree in various poses, such as dancing, grooming herself or playing a musical instrument.

The below picture depicts three such Shilabalika structures on the outer wall of Chennakeshava temple, Belur.
shilabalikas on chennakeshava temple wall

The salabhanjika concept stems from ancient symbolism linking a chaste maiden with the sala tree or the asoka tree through the ritual called dohada, or the fertilisation of plants through contact with a young woman. The symbolism changed over the course of time and the salabhanjika became figures used as ornamental carvings, usually located in the area where worshipers engage in circumambulation, near the garbhagriha of many Hindu temples.
The salabhanjika’s female features, like breasts and hips, are often exaggerated. Frequently these sculpted figures display complex hairdos and an abundance of jewelry.

The Shilabalikas shown in the picture below are located inside the temple. These sculptures adorn the edges of a square elevated ceiling before the sanctum area.

shilabalika dancing

shilabalika in nataraj pose

shilabalika grooming hair


  1. we just visited this temple last week in Belur… 

  2. Beautiful images made better by clear explanations and a bit of cultural history 🙂

  3. We should appreciate the craftsmanship of artists those days… Six sigma,zero defect delivery

    • I do appreciate the craftsmanship of the artists, but we never know how many such sculptures didn’t make the cut, do we?! so six sigma not sure! 😛

  4. that’s an insight….thanks for researching on this facet of the temple…

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